live your life "off the wall"

Discuss word origins and meanings.

live your life "off the wall"

Post by ayesh » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:11 pm

what the meaning of the words--
life ain,t so bad at all
live your life off the (wall)

live your life "off the wall"

Post by dalehileman » Mon Apr 02, 2007 8:59 pm

Welcome eye

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off the wall

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live your life "off the wall"

Post by Shelley » Tue Apr 03, 2007 2:28 am

I googled "live your life off the wall", and now I know ayesh's question refers to part of a Michael Jackson song. Wordwizard did have a discussion about "off the wall" ici, in which Edwin Ashworth defined the expression as "oddball" or flakey". Considering Mr. Jackson's lifestyle choices, I imagine this definition is what he had in mind.
I'm familiar with this expression, and when I use it I am describing something weird, flakey, oddball, bizarre . . . You don't hear it too often nowadays. There is a distinction between quirky "off the wall" and in need of medication "off the wall".

live your life "off the wall"

Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Apr 03, 2007 3:59 am

The Cassell Dictionary of Slang suggests that the derivation of 'off the wall' may be from the skewed bounce-back of a ball striking a wall.
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live your life "off the wall"

Post by hsargent » Thu Apr 05, 2007 1:30 pm

I had no thoughts about this subject until this morning.

We have an expression about kids bouncing off the walls. This is hyperactive in natural and constantingly moving.

I would tie this to your expression, living off the wall.
Signature: Harry Sargent

live your life "off the wall"

Post by trolley » Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:39 pm

I think living "off the wall" means living to the fullest. If your not living on the edge, then you're taking up too much space. Live off the wall....don't just hang there like a picture.

live your life "off the wall"

Post by gdwdwrkr » Thu Apr 05, 2007 9:47 pm

Somehow it's a handball term to me...bouncy, flaky, reactionary, and always on the rebound.

live your life "off the wall"

Post by Ken Greenwald » Fri Apr 06, 2007 4:54 pm

Ayesh et al, I’m just going to address the conventional meanings of OFF THE WALL and leave the interpretation of exactly what Michael Jackson meant in his song to the readers of tea leaves.

OFF THE WALL / OFF-THE-WALL adjective [1950s and still in use], also adverb: 1) Referring to ideas, schemes, beliefs, etc. as well as persons and their behavior: Eccentric, highly unusual, strange, outrageous, odd, oddball, offbeat, unorthodox, bizarre, unconventional, far-out, way-out, weird, instinctive <“His business idea for mobile pay toilets was totally off the wall?> 2) instinctive, intuitive, off the cuff. <“He decided to play it off the wall and went into the meeting without any serious preparation.”> “3) insane, crazy, out of one’s mind <“When they took her away she was beyond distraught, incoherent, off the wall.”> 4) (broadly) obnoxious, offensive, pointless, etc. <“She lost her temper and called me some off-the-wall names.”>

The exact origin of this originally U.S. slang expression is unknown. Two explanations have been offered:

1) The allusion may be to the unpredictable angle of return of a ball rebounding from a wall, as in baseball, squash, handball, etc.

2) The term may be related to the earlier expression ‘bounce off the walls’ (as noted by Harry above), referring to the behavior of psychotic patients in mental hospitals and the padded walls designed to prevent them from hurting themselves.

The earliest example of its use is from 1937, but this might only be referring to a ‘wallflower’ and not one of the above definitions:
<1937 “‘Oh Jimmy—You don’t love me. I’m OFF THE WALL.’ ‘I know Sally, but I don’t mind.’ ‘In the old days, parents knew what their kids were doing evenings.’”—‘Cocaine Friends’ by Stark, page 103>

<1953 “OFF THE WALL.”—in ‘Blues Records’ by Leadbitter & Slaven, page 201>

<1959 “We all said thanks in our own OFF-THE-WALL ways.” Ibid. “Not that OFF-THE-WALL holyroller kind of clapping.”—‘Trumbell Park’ by F. L. Brown, pages 354 and 223>

<1962 “Some had dirty green uniforms, or some OFF-THE-WALL color.”—‘Vietnam Diary’ by Tregaskis, page 129>

<1964 “He blew his cool, called me some OFF TH’ WALL names.”—‘The Chosen Few’ by H. Rhodes, page 179>

<1966 “The OFF-THE-WALL broad . . . rolled up to the El Adobe . . . in a taxicab.”—“Hell’s Angels” by H. S. Thompson, page 192>

<1967 “I mean, talkin’ some OFF THE WALL shit, too, baby.”—‘Tales’ by Baraka, page 19>

<1968 “This guy Ramsay is really OFF-THE-WALL about the age for owning a motor vehicle . . .OFF THE WALL means: could you picture someone bouncing himself off a wall.”—‘English Journal,’ March, page 363>

<1969 “One night he said something OFF-THE-WALL to one of the brothers and I told the brother to whup his ass.”—‘Die Nigger Die’ by H. Brown, page 44>

<1970 “ I felt about as OFF-THE-WALL as they come—half-drunk, half scared.”—‘Snakes’ by A. Young>

<1972 “ OFF THE WALL means crazy. Like you say, ‘Man, you’re OFF THE WALL!’ Or off the ceiling, which means the same thing. Or ‘He’s off the wall with a spatula!’ ‘OFF THE WALL for extra bases’ or even worse.”—in Dictionary of American Regional English, N.Y.U. student, Vol. 2, page 704>

<1974 “Brian knows how to startle the over-interviewed with OFF-THE-WALL questions that get surprising answers: Ever see a ghost?”—‘National Review’ (U.S.), 4 January, page 47/2>

<1975 “He became suspicious when Dickenson answered extremely complex questions ‘OFF THE WALL.’—‘San Francisco Chronicle,’ 11 January, page 12/3>

<1976 “For all but an utterly few OFF THE WALL irregular verbs, you form the present subjunctive in the following way.”—‘Latin’ by Humez & Humez, page 72>

<1976 “‘I just thought it was OFF-THE-WALL funny,’ says Lear.”—‘Times,’ 5 April, page 74>

<1977 “She had decided to play the whole scene OFF THE WALL, to just go with the flow . . . The really authentic thing to do was to act on your impulses.”—‘Serial’ (1978) by C. McFadden, iv. page 14/1>

<1977 “Among the many new sources of cash—it's called ‘OFF THE WALL’ fundraising—I have heard about a tribe of Apaches which . . . invested $2 million in the making of . . . a western.”—‘The Listener,’ 20 October, page 498/2>

<1967-80 “OFF-THE-WALL 1. Irrelevant. 2. Nonsensical. 3. Inappropriate. 4. Childish.”—“Runnin’ Line’ by Folb, page 248>

<1982 “He started talking OFF THE WALL about how he should go to El Salvador.”—‘Penthouse,’ December, page 84>

<1983 “They make a lot of remarks OFF THE WALL . . . But other than that there’s not much heckling.”—‘Hour Magazine’ (ABC-TV), 20 April>

<1988 “Paige was kind of OFF-THE-WALL, dramatic, a bit of a sex kitten.”—‘Rich Men, Single Women’ by P. Peck & P. Massman, page 8>

<1993 “All you need is somebody who is OFF THE WALL.”—‘CNN & Co.’ (CNN-TV), 9 March>

<2001 “As it is, Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has described the Commission's action as ‘OFF THE WALL,’ while James said the European decision ‘reflects a significant point of divergence’ with American practice. ‘Time Magazine,’ 16 July>

<2007 “And for all his earnest purpose, Fitzgerald [[prosecutor Patrick]] was also known among colleagues as affable and funny. During the Gambino case, he playfully interrupted co-counsel with an OFF-THE-WALL note asking: "Is there beer in the fridge?"—‘Time Magazine, 8 March>
(Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Oxford English Dictionary, Picturesque Expressions by Urdang, Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Facts on File Dictionary of Clichés, Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, Chapman’s Dictionary of American Slang, digital archives>

Ken G – April 6, 2007

live your life "off the wall"

Post by nettie » Fri Apr 13, 2007 9:24 pm

Sorry if it is in the archives or googlish, but is off the hook the same thing?

live your life "off the wall"

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Apr 14, 2007 1:30 am


live your life "off the wall"

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Sat Apr 14, 2007 2:17 pm

Somebody with a screw loose could soon be off the wall.

live your life "off the wall"

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Apr 15, 2007 3:25 am

.. Ed that reminds me that I had a painting that was off the wall and it didn't bounce and it was very predictable what happened to the frame ..

Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

live your life "off the wall"

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sun Apr 15, 2007 10:30 am

gold-leafed gesso wall-to-wall?

live your life "off the wall"

Post by Shelley » Sun Apr 15, 2007 1:51 pm

That would have the carpet cleaners bouncing off the walls.

live your life "off the wall"

Post by Meirav Micklem » Mon Apr 16, 2007 12:32 am

nettie wrote: Sorry if it is in the archives or googlish, but is off the hook the same thing?
No. My understanding is that if someone says you're "off the hook" that means that you're let off - in terms of blame, responsibility etc.

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